I have been asked a good and valid question once or twice now – in different forms – and I wanted to give it some time and attention.
The question boils down to:
How do you reconcile your effort to be inclusive with the fact that Oh, Oh, Baby Boy! is based on a heterosexual family, and doesn’t include non-traditional families?
After digging in, and peeling back the layers of the proverbial onion, I’ve come to this realization:
Yes, definitely, Blood Orange Press as a publisher is committed to inclusivity and publishing underrepresented stories. As a collection of what I hope will one day be many books, Blood Orange Press’s list will fill literary gaps.
As one single book, Oh, Oh, Baby Boy! – or any book, for that matter – cannot be inclusive of every underrepresented story. I tried with Oh, Oh, Baby Boy! specifically, and ultimately realized that my attempts diluted the core themes of the book. At it’s very center, this book is about expanding our notions of heterosexual masculinity, especially among boys and men of color, and dads. That was the gap this book fills. For better or worse, it is not a book about families with non-traditional sexual or gender identities.
I hope that Blood Orange Press releases many many books, and I hope that many of these many represent non-traditional families, and families of different sexualities and creative gender identities.
Digging even deeper into the concept of inclusivity, I am coming to realize that the act of making a story visible in effect renders others invisible. In shining a light on an intersection of perspectives, our attention is taken away from other intersections, other perspectives.
It’s the nature of storytelling.
In committing to fill literary gaps and be inclusive, the cynical view is that we’re setting ourselves up for failure. How could we possibly capture every story? We can’t, and so how dare we say that our goal is to be inclusive of underrepresented stories?
On the other hand, the aspirational view is this:
What a blessing. Our stories are infinite! We will never run out – and our work to make the invisible seen will never be finished. It’s the process of trying to fill those gaps that is worthwhile.